What racist teenagers tell us about the GOP

Great piece by Jeremy Stahl in Slate about what we should make out of the horrible racist/sexist/homophobic tweets of the teenage son of GOP Senator Jeff Flake (the tweets are truly something– you can see them here).  Of course teenagers do/say stupid things and it would be ridiculous to tar an entire political party with that, but I think Stahl makes some very compelling points:

I think there is something about present-day conservative politics worth taking away from these cases. It’s something that most of us already knew and something that occasional Slate contributor Tom Scocca articulated wonderfully in an article on this site last fall. Namely, that there is a not insignificant portion of the GOP electorate that exists as a fever swamp of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-immigrant hatred, and bigotry of all sorts. Obviously not all Republican politicians and voters, or not even a majority of them, are racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant bigots. But it’s a sizable enough constituency that a key part of the Republican message is to use coded—and sometimes not so coded—language to appeal to this crowd. As Scocca wrote right before last November’s election:

“For more than four years, without pause, Republicans have been campaigning and propagandizing against an imaginary Obama. At the most grotesque end of the fantasies, he is a foreign-born, anti-colonialist Muslim. In more reputable precincts, he is a power-mad socialist and a dumb affirmative-action baby, promoted all the way to the presidency by a race-crazed, condescending liberal elite.” …

Again, Republicans aren’t all racist. But the party actively cultivates racists as voters. Which means that some portion of the Republican electorate, as well as Republican officials, are racists. When a kid literally lives in that political environment, he has a greater chance of being caught up in the extreme end of it. If all of your friends are Republicans and even a small subgroup of Republicans are racist, homophobic bigots, then you’re more likely to associate with racist, homophobic bigots and become one yourself than if you’re hanging out with liberal, crunchy kids…

If you’ve won the support of birthers, don’t be surprised when your son makes comments about Obama being a Kenyan spear-chucker. Likewise, if you’re so adamantly opposed to equal rights for gay people, you shouldn’t be shocked when your child is exposed as a raging homophobe.

And, yes, kids of Democrats/liberals do say really stupid things (not surprisingly involving alcohol), but you’re not going to find a trend of them making horribly offensive statements:

But when bad Democratic kids behave badly, they’re way more likely to drive 100 mph while drunk than to say the president chucks spears. Likewise, you rarely ever see Democratic officials getting in trouble for passing on horrible, racist chain emails or making horrible racist remarks. This has everything to do with the political differences between the two parties and their voters.

So, just to be clear… most Republicans are not racists nor homophobes.  But when you rely on racists and homophobes for a not insubstantial portion of your energized political base, you are making a bargain with the devil, which at times like this, becomes eminently clear.

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